American Express is my favourite card issuer in Canada. Their cards have great rewards and benefits, and they always have excellent customer service. The SPG American Express cards currently an increased bonus, which I’ve written about. However, I haven’t reviewed the SPG Personal American Express or the SPG Business American Express, so here it is.
Additional Reading: SPG AMEX Bonus Increased!
SPG American Express Review
The SPG American Express is one of a handful of hotel co-branded cards. The only other cards currently offering hotel points directly are the MBNA Best Western MasterCard and the Chase Canada Marriott Visa. Why is this important? Only redeeming hotel points will get you outsized value for stays as the hotel chain is able to control inventory and prices to best suit their needs. You can always redeem other credit card and airline points for hotel stays, but the return on your points will not be as high.
American Express has offered the SPG card for several years. There are two versions of the SPG American Express.
The SPG American Express cards now offer 25,000 points as a welcome bonus, instead of the 20,000 before. This is a limited-time offer running until October 18, although American Express could remove that earlier. This is the highest bonus that the card has ever offered, making it one of the best cards to get right now.
To earn the points, you need to spend $1,500 in the first three months of getting the card. This is one of the lower minimum spend requirements. If you break it down, it is only $500 per month. American Express recently improved their underwriting policies, making more people eligible to apply, such as students. There is no minimum income requirement for this card.
The other SPG American Express Card is the small business version. The signup bonus is the same: 25,000 points when you complete $1,500 in spend within three months. One great thing about this card is that AMEX is happy to approve you even if you don’t have a registered business. You can put yourself in the business name as a sole proprietor, and in nearly all cases, American Express uses your personal credit score in their lending decision.
Need Help with Minimum Spend?
PayTM is a fantastic new app that lets you pay everyday bills with your credit card. This is especially useful for items like rent, taxes, and tuition. With these bills, you can now earn miles where previously you could only pay with your bank account or a check.
The daily limit is currently $1500 per account. If you owe property or income tax, you can easily knock out the minimum spend for both cards in just two days. On top of that, you can get a $10 credit using promo code PTM9462620 when signing up and paying your first bill of more than $25.
Additional Reading: Pay Bills for Free with your Credit Card!
Earning SPG Points
The SPG American Express is my preferred card to use for everyday transactions, because of how flexible SPG points are. You can transfer them to over 30 airlines at a 1:1.25 ratio in 20,000 point increments, and at a 1:2 ratio to Marriott. Since you earn 1 point per $ on everyday purchases, and 2 points per $ on qualifying purchases at SPG and Marriott properties, you have your choice of SPG points, 1.25 airline miles or 3 Marriott points.
Keep in mind that with categories like Groceries, Gas, and Entertainment, you should use a credit card that gives you a multiplier bonus. Even though I value an SPG point to be at least 2 cents, that’s less than the 4 cents I get back when using the Scotiabank Gold American Express, which gives you a 4x bonus on those categories.
Additional Reading: Scotiabank Gold American Express – 30,000 Point Offer ($300 Free!)
You also earn SPG Gold after spending $30,000 in a calendar year, which also matches to Marriott Gold status. After spending $40,000 you earn a free night award for weekends in addition to all the points earned. As well, you earn 2 points/$ spent on SPG and Marriott hotel properties worldwide. It’s worth noting that you can get SPG Gold/Marriott Gold instantly if you have the American Express Platinum or Business Platinum cards.
Redeeming SPG Points
The easiest and most straightforward way to redeem your hard-earned points are for SPG hotel redemptions. These range from Category 1-7, starting at just 2,000 points a night.You can view all the hotels in each category here on the SPG website. Furthermore, redeeming for hotels between categories 3-7 gets you the fifth night free – a 20% discount. If you applied and were approved for both the SPG Personal AMEX and the SPG Business AMEX, you would earn 53,000 SPG points. Here are how many free hotel nights you could get with that:
- 16-25 Free Nights at Category 1 (2,000-3,000 points per night)
- 12-16 Free Nights at Category 2 (3,000-4,000 points per night)
- 8 Free Nights at Category 3 (7,000 points per night; 5th night free with 28,000 points)
- 6 Free Nights at Category 4 (10,000 points per night)
- 3-5 Free Nights at Category 5 (12,000 – 16,000 points per night)
- 2 Free Nights at Category 6 (20,000-25,000 points per night)
- 1 Free Night at Category 7 (30,000-35,000 points per night)
I think it’s pretty obvious how these points can make your travel budget go really far. Where else can you get up to a month of free hotel stays with just two credit cards?
SPG also has great brands and a wide range of properties to suit anyone’s needs. One of the properties I recently stayed at on my trip to Peru was the Tambo del Inka, a Luxury Collection property. I thought it was very impressive for a Category 5 property to have its own private train station to Machu Picchu. In addition to SPG properties, you transfer points to Marriott fairly easily and stay at any of their hotels on points.
Best Value Redemptions
There are plenty of other fantastic redemptions that I will go into in future posts, but there are two ways where I think you can get maximum value.
A) Boutique Airline Redemptions
SPG is one of the most flexible types of points out there, and can transfer to 30+ airlines. With most programs, this is at a 1:1 ratio. In addition to that, you get a 25% bonus when transferring miles in increments of 20,000 miles. The SPG American Express is the only way in Canada to earn exotic currencies like Asiana Club, Aegean Miles, LATAM Pass, and more.
This is important because it opens many opportunities for Canadians to redeem for “sweet spots.” One of the best First Class cabins in the world, the Etihad A380 apartments, is only 35,000 miles with SPG. The process for doing that involves transferring to Asiana Club. There are no other ways to earn Asiana miles other than through earning miles from flights. With the 53,000 points you earn from the SPG Personal American Express and the SPG Business American Express, you have enough miles to fly this product, with enough points left over for a nice hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Additional Reading: The Cheapest Way to Fly Etihad First Class
B) Marriott Hotel and Air Packages
If you have a large amount of points, Marriott Hotel and Air redemptions might be the best you can make.
If you and your significant other picks up both the SPG Personal AMEX and the SPG Business AMEX, you will have 106,000 SPG points after completing the minimum spends. This transfers to 318,000 Marriott points. If you tie this with the 35% Transfer Bonus with Aeroplan, you will get 162,000 Aeroplan miles, enough for a “mini round-the-world” ticket in business class. Otherwise, you could earn 120,000 Alaska miles. That’s enough for a one-way First class or round-trip Business Class redemption to Asia on Cathay Pacific.
This card comes with travel and shopping protections that a premium card should have. What’s good is that it’s been easy for me to claim the reimbursement on these insurance policies. Broken electronics, stranded hotel overnights, medical fees – that’s all happened to me, and I’ve probably saved the annual fee several times over. You can view the whole list here.
Why Should You Get The SPG American Express Card Now?
It’s a no brainer to pick up this card because of the improved signup bonus. It doesn’t hurt that SPG points are tremendously valuable and it’s not a bad card to use for everyday spend. Furthermore, you are able to get the signup bonus even if you’ve had the cards previously.
While AMEX has language on many of their cards stating that customers are only permitted one bonus, this has not been enforced. AMEX can decide to change this anytime. If you’re not sure and have questions, feel free to reach out – there’s more personal information I can explain privately (not online). This is also why I suggest getting these cards sooner rather than later.
Finally, these cards also allow you to do a Global Transfer with AMEX, whereby you use your Canadian credit and AMEX history to get approved for a US credit card, many of which have much better signup bonuses.